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Targeted and passive environmental DNA approaches outperform established methods for detection of quagga mussels, Dreissena rostriformis bugensis in flowing water

Blackman, Rosetta C.; Ling, Kar Keun Sean; Harper, Lynsey R.; Shum, Peter; Hänfling, Bernd; Lawson-Handley, Lori


Rosetta C. Blackman

Kar Keun Sean Ling

Lynsey R. Harper

Peter Shum

Dr Bernd Haenfling
Senior Lecturer/ Chair of the Evolutionary Biology Group (EvoHull)

Lori Lawson-Handley


The early detection of invasive non-native species (INNS) is important for informing management actions. Established monitoring methods require the collection or observation of specimens, which is unlikely at the beginning of an invasion when densities are likely to be low. Environmental DNA (eDNA) analysis is a highly promising technique for the detection of INNS—particularly during the early stages of an invasion. Here, we compared the use of traditional kick-net sampling with two eDNA approaches (targeted detection using both conventional and quantitative PCR and passive detection via metabarcoding with conserved primers) for detection of quagga mussel, Dreissena rostriformis bugensis, a high priority INNS, along a density gradient on the River Wraysbury, UK. All three molecular tools outperformed traditional sampling in terms of detection. Conventional PCR and qPCR both had 100% detection rate in all samples and outperformed metabarcoding when the target species was at low densities. Additionally, quagga mussel DNA copy number (qPCR) and relative read count (metabarcoding) were significantly influenced by both mussel density and distance from source population, with distance being the most significant predictor. Synthesis and application. All three molecular approaches were more sensitive than traditional kick-net sampling for the detection of the quagga mussel in flowing water, and both qPCR and metabarcoding enabled estimates of relative abundance. Targeted approaches were more sensitive than metabarcoding, but metabarcoding has the advantage of providing information on the wider community and consequently the impacts of INNS.


Blackman, R. C., Ling, K. K. S., Harper, L. R., Shum, P., Hänfling, B., & Lawson-Handley, L. (2020). Targeted and passive environmental DNA approaches outperform established methods for detection of quagga mussels, Dreissena rostriformis bugensis in flowing water. Ecology and Evolution,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 14, 2020
Online Publication Date Oct 29, 2020
Publication Date 2020
Deposit Date Nov 2, 2020
Publicly Available Date Nov 2, 2020
Journal Ecology and Evolution
Electronic ISSN 2045-7758
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Keywords Early detection; eDNA; Invasive non‐native species; Metabarcoding; PCR; qPCR; Targeted assay
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Publisher URL
Additional Information Received: 2020-01-17; Accepted: 2020-09-14; Published: 2020-10-29


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Copyright Statement
© 2020 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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